I can still recall the first time I ever walked into the printmaking studio at Guilford College. Climbing the stairs to the second floor, entering the well-lit room, hardwoods creaking beneath my feet, and smelling the toxic solvents for the first time. And I can vividly remember meeting my printmaking professor, Roy Nydorf, as if it were yesterday.
He started out our freshman orientation by flipping through a portfolio of prints he had collected over the decades, briefly explaining how each print was created—dry point, mezzotint, aquatint, sugar lift—intermittently rubbing his beard, his fingers coated with turquoise.
I remember his keen eye during critiques, his gloveless hands retrieving a plate in the acid bath, and the way he sparked my interest in a medium I knew nothing about and had never heard of prior to 1997. That’s what great professors do.
I found the etching process fascinating and addictive. I was eager to discover how crucial the timing of the acid was. I was anxious to feel the rush of adrenaline when pulling a print for the first time after having cranked the press and felt the release of the plate, flipping back the blankets, lifting the corner of the print. And I was as equally hooked on the meticulousness of the wiping of the plates—the seductiveness and methodical, circular motions.
It didn’t take me long to know that I wanted to concentrate in this medium and explore as much as I could under Roy. I found myself asking him if I could have the honor of being his Teacher’s Assistant, which he said yes to my junior year. He taught me so much. So you can imagine my utter disappointment when he announced he was taking a sabbatical my senior year. Tears were indeed shed.
Many years later, the Greenhill Gallery in Greensboro, NC, offered Roy a retrospective. This included about 200 of his pieces and spanned over 40 years of creative, artistic exploration. So when one of my closest girl friends and senior thesis graduates, Carol DeVries, asked me to meet her for lunch and a gallery tour, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Coincidentally, Roy’s wife, Terry Hammond, and two other Guilford alums were there, and we shared some laughs, great stories, and caught up.
It was only until I started walking the gallery that I realized what a phenomenal accomplishment my old professor had achieved.The entire gallery was dedicated to him and his work. It was beautifully curated and a perfect chronology of the evolution of his work. There were surreal paintings that were dreamlike in nature, with floating figures drifting lightless. There was a series of ephemeral butterflies rendered in pastels that looked so real that, if you touched them, their delicate wings would crumble. There were wooden carvings—one 10 feet in length and carved entirely from one piece of wood with painted, red lips—that were so mature and unexpected. There were paintings—portraits and landscapes alike that detailed time in the Italian countryside and desolate North Carolina highways after a summer rain. And then there were etchings I was so familiar with because I had personally seen Roy meticulously wiping the plates in the studio—The Black Cat and the a la poupee heads.
I consider myself blessed to have been able to see this awe-inspiring show. But I consider myself even more grateful for having had the opportunity to study under such a well-rounded, gifted talent who taught me so much about the printmaking medium and more about myself as an artist.
Thank you, Roy, for being the artist, visionary, and mentor that you are. You will never know how you impacted my life.